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Bio-based industry gives lukewarm response to UK’s first bio-economy strategy.

Posted on Dec 11, 2018 12:50:02 PM

The UK's bioeconomy strategy (pic courtesy of  UK government).“Perhaps this was to be expected but some will find the lack of policy direction somewhat disconcerting.”

£220 billion. That is how much the UK’s bio-economy is currently worth. However, the UK government wants to double this value by 2030 and has launched a new strategy to help the country to do so. The new strategy entitled ‘Growing the bioeconomy: Improving lives strengthening the economy’ was launched last week with the help of industry stakeholders. Although the strategy was welcomed in general, some industry experts have given it a lukewarm response.

The main aim of the strategy is to "create the right national and international market conditions" for bio-based solutions such as compostable plastics and biofuels to thrive in the UK.

In the strategy’s foreword statement, Minister for Business and Industry Richard Harrington said: “A strong and vibrant bio-economy harnesses the power of bioscience and biotechnology, transforming the way we address challenges in food, chemicals, materials, energy and fuel production, health and the environment. The potential benefits are significant, as we develop low-carbon bio-based products and processes that will improve our daily lives.

“Growing our bio-economy will ensure that the UK becomes an inviting and vibrant place to invest and do business, supporting innovation and stimulating economic growth.”

He went on to say that the government wanted the UK to become a “global leader” in developing, manufacturing, using and exporting bio-based solutions in order to help to move it towards a low-carbon future.

The 60-page strategy looks at the global challenges the world faces in relation to climate, plastics pollution, food and health, and how bio-economy businesses can contribute solutions to these problems.

Four main goals are set out:

  • Capitalise on the UK’s world-class research, development and innovation base to grow the bio-economy
  • Maximise productivity and potential from existing UK bioeconomy assets
  • Deliver real, measurable benefits for the UK economy
  • Create the right societal and market conditions to allow innovative bio-based products and services to thrive

Comme ci comme ça

David Newman, managing director at trade body Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBiA), gave the strategy a lukewarm response. Although he welcomed the strategy, he told Bio-Based World News in a statement that the strategy set out a “trajectory but was very short on policies and actions”.

He added: “Perhaps this was to be expected but some will find the lack of policy direction somewhat disconcerting – at times it appears to be a document compiled from a wish-list of contributors like ourselves, without determining where government will intervene in practice. For example, we have phrases such as “we must support different disciplines working together, using this to unlock their full potential and helping to solve challenges at all stages of research and development across the bio-economy.”

Newman said there was nothing to object to with the latter phrase, but it was lacking in “how?” details.

Dr Adrian Higson, company director and lead consultant for bio-based products for UK bio-economy consultants NNFCC, echoed Newman’s sentiments. He told Bio-Based World News: “We welcome the publication of the strategy which represents two years of stakeholder consultation and development. However, it is disappointing that the strategy is limited on concrete policy actions and in many ways fails to give the UK bio-economy a much-needed boost.

“The recent closure of key ethanol assets and the cessation of the successful IB Catalyst innovation programme (R&D industrial biotechnology programme) are disappointing; with stronger government ambition and support these closures could have been avoided. There’s now a lot work required to the turn the Strategy’s aspirations into real actions, this includes immediate action to secure the Bioeconomy Sector Deal necessary to reach the target of doubling the value of the UK’s bio-economy by 2030.”

Next steps

Separately, the UK government announced in the strategy that it will create a new governance group to support, monitor and evaluate the delivery of the bio-economy strategy and related activities. Industry leaders will need to work with representatives from government, research and innovation bodies to provide leadership and guidance in the delivery stage of this strategy, the UK government said in a statement.


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About the Author

Liz Gyekye
Liz Gyekye
Liz has spent more than ten years working in the waste management and bioenergy sector as a journalist.read more